In the first book-length scholarly study of the San Fernando Valley—home to one-third of the population of Los Angeles—Laura R. Barraclough combines ambitious historical sweep with an on-theground investigation of contemporary life in this iconic western suburb. She is particularly intrigued by the Valley’s many rural elements, such as dirt roads, tack-and-feed stores, horse-keeping districts, citrus groves, and movie ranches. Far from natural or undeveloped spaces, these rural characteristics are, she shows, the result of deliberate urbanplanning decisions that have shaped the Valley over the course of more than a hundred years.The Valley’s entwined history of urban development and rural preservation has real ramifications today for patterns of racial and class inequality and especially for the evolving meaning of whiteness. Immersing herself in meetings of homeowners’ associations, equestrian organizations, and redistricting committees, Barraclough uncovers the racial biases embedded in rhetoric about “open space” and “western heritage.” The Valley’s urban cowboys enjoy exclusive, semirural landscapes alongside the opportunities afforded by one of the world’s largest cities. Despite this enviable position, they have at their disposal powerful articulations of both white victimization and, with little contradiction, color-blind politics.
Whiteness in the northeast San Fernando Valley at the beginning of the twenty first century remains persistently but tenuously linked to the rural landscape, within a city where whites are now a numerically declining but structurally privileged minority. Within this context, the historic relationships between the rural landscape, the urban state, real estate developers, and capital are being reworked and redefined, and so too are the meanings and articulations of whiteness.
As close observers of the San Fernando Valley know, today's Valley is itself divided, pricinipally by an east-west split that runs along the 405 Freeway. Moreover, the Valley's divide is widening as its poorer areas grow. The Result: the Valley today is less distinguishable from the rest of Los Angeles, its political and cultural divisions more like those on the other side of the hills. "The Valley is changing," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents much of the area. "There's no question about it -- politically, ethnically, economically."
I highly recommend this book which provides more detail into "gentlemen farming", movie ranches, celebrity ranches, equestrian communities, and the overall growth of the Valley since the 1800. There is a lot to read here.